Don’t Look Up is listed as a comedy on IMDb but it didn’t make me laugh. The movie’s message is way too serious for chuckles. On the surface it’s the story of two astronomers who struggle to convince people that a comet is heading for Earth. Of course, the comet is the climate crisis and we real-life viewers are the ones in denial.
There’s no denying that Don’t Look Up is scarily accurate. Climate change is happening. The forecasts are as frightening as a big comet headed for Earth. Yet on the whole, many of us don’t seem to take global heating very seriously. If we did, perhaps we wouldn’t watch TV shows on the Internet. One hour of viewing produces the same amount of carbon dioxide as driving 300 metres in a car.
Psychologists are investigating the reasons for climate change denial. They already know there’s an issue with how our minds deal with large, complex problems that still seem some way off. If you prefer to focus on the smaller, more digestible problems of today then you’re certainly not alone! I’m like that too. Many humans are.
Climate change denial and its little sister climate change avoidance aren’t straightforward. This is where Don’t Look Up misfires in its depiction of comet deniers. The movie makes fun of society’s observable on-the-surface responses but doesn’t go deeper into human motives. Don’t Look Up suggests the problem is a culture that can’t cope with bad news. Everyone is obsessed with frivolity and light-hearted jokes. Nobody wants to be sad. Some characters even believe the comet will be good for the economy. I think the movie would’ve worked better if it had focused on a family of deniers and their individual reasoning. Instead it paints society with very broad brushstrokes.
Of course, there’s truth in Don’t Look Up’s depiction of responses to climate change. But because it doesn’t go in deep it comes across as patronising. Millions of people know that humanity faces some serious problems. If they aren’t responding quickly enough, it’s not because they’d rather have a giggle. They don’t need Leonardo di Caprio to tell them that Earth faces some serious issues.
Don’t Look Up is a polemical film, made to move hearts and minds. If I were being unsympathetic I’d even call it a preach piece. That’s why I’m upset with its rather single minded, superficial depiction of climate change denial. And it doesn’t help that some of the actors in the movie are extremely rich. After viewing Don’t Look Up I felt as if I’d been spoken down to from the heights of Mount Olympus.
It has to be said that Don’t Look Up isn’t a bad movie. I enjoyed the story and really appreciated seeing Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Leonardo di Caprio and Jennifer Lawrence. The script worked and I loved Meryl Streep’s final scene. You must make sure you watch the film right to the end to catch that!
Don’t Look Up works as a fun disaster movie in the comet-heading-this-way genre. If you like those sorts of films, you will definitely enjoy Don’t Look Up as a disaster movie with a megawatt cast.